REVIEW – Magic Goes Wrong is the show that’s ‘so right’ at Birmingham Hippodrome

WITH dollops of doom and gloom every time we watch the news, what a tonic this is to review a show that not only brings a smile, but makes your stomach ache from belly laughing.

‘Magic Goes Wrong’ is collaboration between two dedicated producers of mirth, Mischief Theatre and Penn and Teller – individually they comprise Penn Jillette, Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, Henry Shields and Teller.

Magic is a word that not only applies to a conjuring trick but also to a wonderful experience – magic and magical can be applied to this show in all its senses.

The fun starts from the minute you enter the auditorium with pranks happening both on and off stage setting the scene for what’s to come.

Without giving away too much detail and thus spoiling the experience for those of you that are already booked or planning to get tickets, suffice it to say there are tricks that work which astound and confuse and there are tricks that don’t which delight and amuse.

The high-energy company comprises Daniel Anthony, Valerie Cutko, Sam Hill, Kiefer Moriarty, Rory Fairbairn, Jocelyn Prah and Chloe Tannennaum.

Individually they shine and collectively they sparkle.

Adam Meggido directs with the skill of making a two-hour show disappear as if we had been but ten minutes in the auditorium. Will Bowen has designed a Las Vegas set and Ben Hart, the magic consultant, has made sure there is a liberal sprinkling of sorcery.

For those of us old enough to remember the late Tommy Cooper – the comedic magician who also had his tricks go wrong – this show is a nod to his genius. There is even a guest appearance from master illusionist himself Derren Brown.

Magic goes Wrong is a show that goes just right. I’m still reliving and smiling at much of it today – it’s a magical fun-filled feast.

I’d say Mischief and Penn and Teller have really pulled the rabbit out of the hat with this one – whoops!

Magic Goes Wrong runs at the Birmingham Hippodrome until May 29.

You really are missing a trick if you don’t grab yourself tickets.

Click here for times, tickets and more information.


Review by Euan Rose

Euan Rose Reviews.

REVIEW – Show about Aston Villa’s European Cup – Would You Bet Against Us – debuts at the Birmingham Rep

WRITTEN and performed by Paul Hunter, this is an evening of fact and fun that every Aston Villa fan (and those of us who are not) will enjoy.

Birmingham is a three-team city, which over the years has had a sparseness of silverware in their trophy cabinets. Undoubtedly the greatest ever achievement was Villa’s European Cup win back in 1982 – a feat that was achieved against all the odds.

That historic game where Villa conjured up a 1-0 victory against German giants Bayern Munich  at the De Kulp stadium in Rotterdam, is the hook around which Hunter has woven a tribute to his deceased, chain-smoking, Villa megafan father. He also makes it a tribute to underdogs everywhere.

Hunter does this via a mash-up, of acting, dancing. puppetry, chanting, ball skills, mirth and a touch of general mayhem. For the most part it works – however there are some over-long pauses where the momentum is lost and occasional pieces of business that do not quite work. As with all premieres, this is work in progress and I am sure Hunter will tighten things up as he develops his show to the next stage.

He is supported by three hardworking performers in Lori Hopkins, Heather Lai and Kyll Thomas-Cole, who multi-role and multi-task. A special shout out to the puppet designer and maker Lyndie Wright.

Performed in REP’s smallest space The Door and with a claret and blue set by designer Sophia Clist, ‘Would You Bet Against Us’ is more snug then smug, for it’s never ever going to travel further than our City limits.

I’m sure Hunter was well aware of that when he conceived it. There is plenty of mileage out there though with just Brummie audiences and a myriad of sequels to come, no doubt.

Would You Bet Against Us? runs at the Rep until Saturday, May 28.

Click here for times, tickets and more information.


Review by Euan Rose.

Euan Rose Reviews.

REVIEW – Bournville Musical Theatre’s Wedding Singer at Birmingham’s Crescent is a show worth crooning about

REVIEW – Bournville Musical Theatre’s Wedding Singer at Birmingham’s Crescent is a show worth crooning about.

Picture by Beth Harden. s

IT IS with a sigh of relief we are now seeing musical theatre companies – the backbone of community theatre – coming out of hibernation after the dreaded lockdown to perform the big shows again.

Picture by Beth Harden. s

Remarkably, Bournville Musical Theatre Company has been ‘treading the boards’ for a 100 years with this production of Chad Beguelin’s ‘The Wedding Singer’ marking its centenary.

Even Performing throughout the war, BMTC had not missed a year since debuting with ‘Pirates of Penzance’ back in 1922 – until that is when all theatres went dark in March 2020.

BMTC are back ‘Puttin’ on that Ritz’ with a real powerhouse of a show , which is not only rocking it – it is absolutely socking it to packed houses at the Crescent Theatre this week.

Sadie Turner’s choreography is quite simply not only the best but the most imaginative I’ve seen from an amateur company in a very long time.

Turner’s chorus shimmy, glide, boogie and sassy on in well drilled troupes according to the tempo set by MD Chris Corcoran and his belting big band.

Picture by Beth Harden. s

Turner has trained her guys and gals to move from fingertips to toenails. Hands up – my pet hate is watching a limp-limbed chorus line. Joy of joys -I did not see anyone putting a foot wrong all the way through to the walkdown.

My only gripe was with the sound cuing – far too often individual mics were not brought in on time. Sound cues should be learnt like a script and it is always better to be early than late.

The story of The Wedding Singer, is a take on the eternal star crossed lovers theme – in this case the incumbents are wedding singer Robbie, who gets dumped at the altar, and Julia, who is about to marry the Mr Rich and nasty – Glen.

There is bed-hopping, teeth-gnashing and soul searching a plenty – giving rise to some super songs and routines along the way to wedding bells and glitter balls.

Stuart McDiarmid is spot on the money as Robbie, charismatic and deft of voice, Chloe Turner makes a delightful Julia, sweetly spoken and smoothly sung.

Picture by Beth Harden. s

Liam McNally cuts the Versace pinstripe with all the panache of a lounge lizard as inside trader hotshot Glen.

All the principals galloped up to mark – that was Lewis Doley as Sammy, Lisa Calvin-Grieve as Holly, Robbie Love as George, Jill Hughes as Rosie and Sarah Frances McCarthy as Angie.

My stand-out tribute goes to Harriet Marsland as the sex kitten Linda. She’s the one that dumps Robbie at the altar.

The night before I reviewed ‘Waitress’, which contains one of the raunchiest numbers in it I have ever seen, then here we are the night after and here’s Marsland doing a routine to rival it in its naughtiness whilst making a magnificent job of singing ‘Let me Come Home’.

It is a bit like when we used to say: “We wait all day for a number 8 two come along at once”.

John Morrison has directed his show to flow seamlessly creating some memorable moments on the journey.

The talented BMTC are back doing what they do best -bringing joy to the theatre – at the curtain both the audience and the bar tills shared the love.

The Wedding Singer runs at Birmingham’s Crescent Theatre until Saturday, May 21. Click here for times, tickets and more information.


Review by Euan Rose

Euan Rose Reviews

REVIEW – Waitress at Birmingham Hippodrome is ‘multi-layered’ theatre for the audience to feast on

Picture by Johan Persson. s

IT IS A rare treat that I get to review a musical about which I know very little – consequently seeing ‘Waitress’ the musical, was a bonanza of a discovery which is still ringing in my ears the morning after.

Picture by Johan Persson. s

The show is based on a 2007 movie written and directed by Adrienne Shelly.

Jessie Nelson wrote the book for the stage and Sara Bareilles supplied music and lyrics.

It seems fitting that director Diane Paulus and choreographer Lorin Latarro completed this all female production team to take it to Broadway and the West End.

Why fitting? It was a pre-Covid show at the height of the ‘Me Too’ uprising, which features a misogynist baddy.

The baddy in question is the narcissistic Earl, an intensely brutish outing from Tamlyn Henderson, the loathsome husband of Jenna our waitress, as in the title.

As well as waitressing, Jenna is the baker of fabulous pies at Joe’s Diner. She loves her job – it is her only respite from an abusive marriage. Jenna wants, indeed, plans to escape from Earl but disaster strikes when she discovers she is pregnant with his child.

Picture by Johan Persson. s

Wendy Mae Brown and Evelyn Hoskins play Becky and Dawn – the other two waitresses in Joe’s Diner.

They are both equally superb in their roles as supportive friends to Jenna with terrific back stories in their own right.

Chelsea Halfpenny is simply a tour de force as Jenna, faultless to the core and endearing in all she does – the applause that greeted her solo ‘She Used To Be Mine’ was roof raising.

Michael Starke as Joe the diner owner is downright endearing – he’s the polar opposite to despot Earl, an aging, caring gentleman of worth.  His rendition of ’Take It From An Old Man’ brought a big lump to the throat.

George Crawford is scene-stealing as the eccentric Ogie who woos Dawn after meeting online and finding they are kindred spirits and re-enactment geeks.

Picture by Johan Persson. s

Matt Jay-Willis gives a masterful performance as Dr Pomatter in a company that is just full of them. Jay-Willis captures the vulnerability of a shy, set-in-his-ways medic who discovers an all-consuming wild side. Having your pie and eating it is my ‘go see’ spoiler for you to muse on.

Everything about this show is joyous from the slick setting by Scott Pask to the fabulous orchestra under the baton of Ellen Campbell.

The story is as powerful as it is raucous and raunchy – it delivers on so many levels and develops like peeling an onion, with a fresh layer with every scene. It has impeccable pace and pitch and will have you laughing one minute and weeping the next.

Joe’s diner was indeed a delight and the waitresses delightful!

The show runs at the Birmingham Hippodrome until Saturday, May 21. Click here for times, tickets and more information.


Review by Euan RoseEuan Rose Reviews

REVIEW – The ‘errors’ in the hilarious Play That Goes Wrong at Birmingham’s Alexandra Theatre are timed to pinpoint perfection

WHEN the announcement came over the tannoy the show was going to be late starting due to ‘technical issues’, the audience waiting to get into the auditorium shared a smile – thinking it was all part of the performance.

For this is a comedy about a student theatre company staging a play that, as the title suggests, goes very wrong.

However, the technical issues were in this instance genuine and one can see why – this is a show that on the surface is all cleverly-timed slapstick, but underneath there are a myriad of props and staging that all have to be perfectly set in order that they can then go ‘wrong’ at the right moment. One prop incorrectly set can upset the timing of the whole show – and perfect timing is the key to getting the laughs.

The play is a play-within-a-play – The Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society are setting the stage for their production of ‘The Murder At Haversham Manor’ and even as we enter the auditorium, things are not going well.

The company dog has escaped resulting in a search through the theatre, some of the scenery is not in in place necessitating the assistance of an unsuspecting member of the audience and the stage crew are panicking as curtain-up time approaches.

These antics have the audience giggling from the start. Once the play itself – a corny ‘whodunit’ – begins, we are treated to two hours of breathless entertainment that has the audience roaring with laughter.

The timing is perfection as everything on the stage begins to fall apart, actors are injured by falling sets, lines and cues are mistimed, props misplaced and the director has a breakdown as what should’ve been his theatrical triumph disintegrates around him. His actors take the ‘show must go on’ mantra to the max and this is what drives the comedy.

The writers of this piece of manic genius are Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields, the set designer is Nigel Hock and the tour director Sean Turner.

The ensemble cast work so brilliantly together that it would be churlish to single out any one performance. Each role requires huge amounts of physicality – not least when parts of the ‘set’ collapse, leaving them hanging literally on the edge as the audience gasp.

In fact, there were many ‘gasps’ mixed with the laughter as we marvelled at the technical wizardry – not so much a ‘whodunit’ as a ‘how did they do that’?

The Play That Goes Wrong runs at the Alexandra Theatre until Saturday, May 21. Click here for times, tickets and more information.


Review by Johannah Dyer.

Euan Rose Reviews

REVIEW – Wealth of talent on display as BOA stage Lovely Bones at Birmingham’s Old Rep Theatre

Picture by Steve Gregson. @stevegregsonphotos

BASED on true events concerning the brutal murder of a 14-year-old teenage girl, Alice Sebold’s 2002 novel of ‘The Lovely Bones’ quickly became a modern classic.

This fast-moving stage version by Bryony Lavery proved an excellent choice for Birmingham Ormiston Academy’s young stars of tomorrow under the creative flair of tutor and director James Lees.

Picture by Steve Gregson. @stevegregsonphotos

The play is set in Norristown, Pennsylvania, in 1973 and the following eight years. It’s not a ‘whodunit’, because we see him do it – George Harvey the hideous perpetrator that is.

The uniqueness of the story is that it is told through the eyes and protestations of the dead girl, Susie Salmon who is stuck in some form of pre-heaven in a teenage strop trying to come to terms with the fact she will never achieve her rite of passage.

She also tries hard to communicate with her family and to tell them where her body is and who mutilated and defiled her.

In truth everyone suspects Harvey’s guilt but so cleverly has he covered his tracks that all that is left of Susie to discover, is her elbow.

Picture by Steve Gregson. @stevegregsonphotos

As with all plays in this BOA season, some of the parts in the show are double-cast. This shares the leading role opportunities and provides discussion points of the experience for the students.

In the company I saw, Lucy Johnson faultlessly carried the role of Susie Salmon on her young shoulders. She made us shed tears – both of sadness and laughter as we shared her journey.

Dexter Robinson was excellent as loathsome serial killer George Harvey. Robinson walked the crooked line well – making the skin crawl as he crept around, reveling in the chaos he caused to the Salmon family. He was akin to an incubus feeding on the stuff of other people’s souls.

Josh Smith makes much of the role of Susie’s father Jack Salmon and his all consuming descent into depression.

Kareena Sangha captures Susie’s mother Abigail’s desperation as she becomes estranged from her husband. She tries to move the family on with life after the tragedy but to no avail. Failure leads to her betrayal and infidelity.

There were more engaging performances too from Kathryn Duffy and Ria Francis as Susie’s sisters Lindsey and Lynn.

Lucy Ribbands was compelling as Susie’s spirit guide Franny, Poppy Scruton made a good frustrated sleuth as Detective Feneman and Anoura Gbingie was exultant Ray – Susie’s schoolgirl crush.

Picture by Steve Gregson. @stevegregsonphotos

I’d like to give a special shout-out to the two ‘Holiday the Dog’ puppeteers Dasha Simakina-Foster and Lois Stevens. If only dogs could talk, Harvey would have met his demise in the chair they still use to this day in Pennsylvania.

Having got more females than males to tread the boards it is clever casting from Lees to make this a gender-fluid production.

That, coupled with some very impressive ensemble work, including the shocking but brilliant ‘Slaughter of the Innocents’ end to act one ensured his own personal stamp.

I am always delighted to see BOA and once again there was a wealth of talent on display – it warmed the heart to observe the next generation in action.

Review by Euan Rose

Euan Rose Reviews

REVIEW – Mamma Mia at Birmingham Hippodrome is ‘a delight from start to the walkdown’

Picture by Brinkhoff-Moegenburg. s

IT’S NOT been intentional that I’ve been a little late to join the party that is the smash hit Benny Andersson/Bjorn Ulvaeus musical ‘Mamma Mia!’

Seems I was the only one in the packed hippodrome auditorium that was a Mamma-virgin.

“I just can’t wait for the bit at the end when we all get up and dance” said the lady next to me. Now did that mean the best bit about the show is the walkdown?

Picture by Brinkhoff-Moegenburg. s

In actuality it was all a joy – what’s not to like? Certainly not the Abba songs, which have been part of more drunken tomfoolery nights than I can care to remember.

Of course the show is wall-to-wall Abba and with a cast that sound – dare I say – in some cases better than the originals.

Especially in Act two when sound levels had been adjusted – but the sound level is my only criticism in a night of unabashed hedonism.

If there are any of you out there who don’t know, it’s a story about a wedding with a ‘Who’s–ya-Daddy’ sub plot all set on a Greek island.

Sophie Sheridan, a charming outing by silver-voiced Jena Pandya, is the bride-to-be who wants her father to be there. Trouble is, having read her mother’s diary, it seems she can perm any one of three contenders in her mother’s summer of passion 21 years ago. So what else is there to do but secretly invite all three?

Her mother Donna Sheridan is played by Sara Poyzer and is the real deal. I’m sure Meryl Streep was brilliant as Donna in the movie (haven’t seen that either) but she couldn’t do a better job than Poyzer- she’s hypnotic and has an amazing vocal range.

Her rendition of ‘Slipping Through My Fingers’, which she sings to her daughter, packs passion with a capital ‘P’.

Picture by Brinkhoff-Moegenburg. s

From the minute they arrive on the island the would be daddies make a great trio – that’s Daniel Crowder as Harry Bright Phil Corbbitt as Bill Austin, Richard Standing as Sam Carnichael. The banter between them is delivered with panache and comedic mastery. They can also strut their stuff pretty well in the dance routines and belt the big numbers with the best of them.

Donna’s chums Tanya and Rosie – Helen Anker and Nicky Swift respectively – make great foils for Mamma Donna bringing mirth, merriment and some downright magical moments.

Toby Miles is Sky an energetic groom-to-be and he’s well supported by an acrobatic bunch of beach bums, including Pepper – a frenetically funny contribution from James Willoughby Moore with his toy-boy fixation on Tanya.

Choreographer Anthony Van Laast has set some jaw-dropping routines from the exoticness of  ‘I Had A Dream’ to the hilarity of the boys ‘flipper and snorkel’ dance

Phyllida Lloyd’s direction is big, bold and all inclusive and the band do full justice to the Abba catalogue under the baton of Carlton Edwards.

It was all quite a delight from ‘Dancing Queen’ to ‘Take A Chance On Me’ and back again. Yes the walkdown was quite something; hands in the air and folk dancing in the aisles. I thoroughly enjoyed the party – sorry I was late!

Mama Mia runs at the Birmingham Hippodrome until next Saturday, May 14. Click here for times, tickets and more information.


Review by Euan Rose

Euan Rose Reviews

REVIEW – Jungle Book Reimagined at Birmingham’s Hippodrome was hard-hitting, thought-provoking and emotive

THIS MULTI-media production is no Disney-fied, sugar-coated version of ‘The Jungle Book’ – instead it is a full-on assault on the senses, employing every conceivable effect to engage and enthral the audience. Taking inspiration from Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book series of stories originally published in 1894, this production is set in a post-apolcalyptic world when global warming has caused lands to submerge, forcing the human population to search for higher ground.

A young child finds herself separated from her family and ends up in a land where animals of all shapes and sizes have taken over and formed an uneasy alliance as they try to navigate the new world order without humankind.  The child is taken in by a wolf-pack and named Mowgli. The wolves are under threat by another human, a hunter, who keeps them in constant fear. Mowgli is kidnapped by the Bander-log – former lab-monkeys on whom humans had inflicted all kinds of experiments and who now want Mowgli to teach them how they can become human themselves.

With the help of Kaa, a python, Mowgli is rescued by the panther Bagheera and Baloo, a dancing bear and returns to the wolf-pack. But as the hunter gets closer to their territory, they realise the fragile peace the animals have forged is under threat once again – can Mowgli save them?

Director and Choreographer Akram Khan cleverly brings together a soundscape created by  composer Jocelyn Pook with digital animation by Adam Smith and Nick Hillel and live action from his extraordinary dance company to create a compelling and thought-provoking piece, with imagery that pops into your head long after the curtain has come down.

The stage is fronted by a barely visible gauze, onto which are projected beautifully animated line drawings. This effect allows the performers to dance seamlessly within the animations enabling them to interact with giant elephants, birds and other creatures, create stormy seas and fire arrows across the stage.

The animations are stunning in their simplicity – birds that fly, leaves that float gently to the ground, water that rises, a herd of elephants that cross in front of our eyes. It’s all so believable that I found my eyes watering when the hunter shoots Chili – the Kite who has watched over Mowgli – and a flock of birds come to carry him skyward.

The animated scene at the beginning has the child floating on a raft in stormy sea with her parents, echoing the journeys made by migrants. When the child fell off the raft and down into the depths of the ocean, the audience collectively held its breath until she struggled to the surface. Later, the hunter is ‘drowned’ in a sea which brilliantly combines live action with the animation so that you cannot see where the digital effects end and the ‘real’ action begins.

Pook’s sound track is utterly mesmerising – mixing music and sounds from different cultures including Indian song, chants and, at one point, Latin with words and phrases relating to global warming such as activist Greta Thunberg’s famous ‘How dare you?’ speech. Interspersed with the sounds of the jungle are news announcements about the global warming catastrophe as well as dialogue that tells the story.

Khan’s dancers use this soundtrack as their ‘music’ – moving to the rhythms created by the voices and dancing through the dialogue. Costumes are minimal and the dancers are dressed uniformly, relying on their movements to convey which animal they are portraying. For the most part, this works well – the physicality and synchronicity of the dancers is  breathtaking, but occasionally I found myself struggling to work out who was whom – when there was so much to take in visually, some of the more nuanced, subtle elements were lost.

The technical requirements of this production are huge – hats off to the whole team behind the scenes for making it all work.

Jungle Book Reimagined is a unique collaboration not just between different creative media, but also between a veritable who’s who of production partners, all of whom should be congratulated for their vision in supporting this innovative and ground-breaking production.


Review by Johannah DyerFor Euan Rose Reviews

REVIEW – Birmingham Crescent Theatre’s clever and enjoyable Little Shop of Horrors deserves a ‘growing’ audience

Bromsgrove Editorial1st May, 2022Updated: 1st May, 2022

DIRECTING a ‘best-loved musical’ is not necessarily the simplest of productions to undertake – mainly because the majority of your audience will have seen it before and will demand more of the same.

Director Kevin Middleton didn’t tread on too many toes in his interpretation of ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ at Birmingham’s Crescent Theatre last night, but managed to add his own footprint by bringing a semblance of realism to the silliness.

With his subtle references to misogyny and anti-Semitism, Middleton enlists our sympathy for Mushnik, the nice old Jewish flowershop owner and for his young shop assistant Audrey who allows herself to be a punch bag for her dentist boyfriend Orin’s sick pleasure.

It’s a clever bit of scripting that makes the most odious character not the person eating plant Audrey II, but Orin the dentist.

Let’s face it dentists already get a bad press – a seat in their chair is the least favourite outing for young and old.

So in ‘Little Shop’ Orin does for dentists what Sweeny Todd does for barbers – three cheers for the plant when he gobbles him up. Oh shucks, that’s a spoiler!

Martin Sadd makes a believable and likable Mr Mushnik – that is once he emerges from behind a very awkward opening state of a large frame on his desk, which left me searching for where the nebulous voice was coming from.

Audrey is played with little bo-peep sweetness by Helena Stanway and is complemented by Daniel Parker as her love struck co-worker Seymour. They gel together exquisitely, in words, action and song.

Kimberley Maynard, Hannah Lyons and Becky Johnson – Crystal, Chiffon and Ronnette respectively make up the Skid Row chorus. From the moment they literally jump through the opening curtain they sparkle. Whilst others struggled to kick-start their roles on opening night, this dynamic trio owned the stage from the get-go. Maynard has the added bonus of golden tonsils.

The big set piece everyone waits in anticipation to see grow from a pot to a monster is Audrey II, the heinous plant from outer space. The Crescent’s version is a clever design and construction by Jenny Thurston and Marlyn Romer – their Audrey II is a sprawling , living, breathing colossus. Thurston also acts as on-stage puppeteer. Mark Shaun Walsh voices the carnivorous botanical freak.

Keith Harris adds another notch to his top-boy set designs this season, Colin Lang adds some rock move choreography and Chris Arnold waves a baton over a talented band.

The first night nerves will no doubt be replaced by ‘growing’ confidence – there is much to enjoy here for ‘Little Shop’ aficionados and newbies alike. Well worth going into town for.

Little Shop of Horrors runs until Saturday, May 7, at the Crescent – click here for times, tickets and more.


Review by Euan Rose

Euan Rose Reviews